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Honourable Kay Setches AM

Kay has spent her life working to restore balance to the community – to benefit the vulnerable and disadvantaged and bring equality to women.

Honour Roll

Kay Setches worked in the retail industry from 1976-82. From 1978-82, she was the co-ordinator of a women's refuge. From 1982-92 she was a member of the Victorian Parliament for the seat of Ringwood. From 1982-88, Kay created and chaired Victorian Government Women's Caucus and from 1987-88, Kay chaired the Victorian Women's Health Policy Consultation 'Why Women's Health?'. From 1988-90, she was the Minister of Conservation, Forests and Lands and the Minister of Community Services and Minister responsible for Child Care 1990-92.

Kay established her own consulting business in gender education, work and family in 1993. As part of her community service, Kay has successfully worked for the introduction of Affirmative Action rule in the Victorian ALP (1993-94). She has been a Board member of the Victorian Women's Trust, the Kathleen Cunningham Foundation (National Breast Cancer Research Foundation) and she was an Executive Member of the National Council for International Year of Family (1994-95).

As a Foundation member of EMILY's List, she has assisted the establishment in 1996 of EMILY's List Australia by Labor women, based on EMILY's List (USA), as a powerful financial and political network to elect more Labor women to all Australian parliaments. She continues to work to build EMILY's List as one of the most effective new women's political organisations in Australia.

Some of Kay's specific achievements as Minister for Community Services and Minister responsible for Childcare include: the expansion of childcare places, from 390 in 1984 to 15,000 when she left office; the introduction of a welfare-based Child Protection system with 24 hours 7 days a week service; a corresponding community education campaign regarding child abuse; a Young Women's Action Plan for gender specific residential services for young women using Community Services Victoria (CSV) services; intensive in-home support to 700 families through the Families First Program; proclamation and implementation of the Children and Young Person's Act; increases to all Family Violence Prevention and Support Funding; commencement of the Maternal and Child Health After Hours Telephone Service, and increases in places for homeless people in supported housing from 1500 to 5000.

All of this was achieved in two short years. Whilst a Minister, Kay recognised the need for a specific focus on women's health. She convinced the Victorian Government to support and fund the 'Why Women's Health?' Consultation. The Consultation received input from 7000 women across Victoria during 1987. The outcome was the establishment of eight Women's Health Centres, eight Sexual Assault Services around Victoria, a Women's Health Information Service (now 'Women's Health Victoria'). Unusually at the time, all these services were run by women for women.

The Consultation also recommended the Review of Birthing Services which led to the Having a Baby in Victoria report. The Victorian Women's Health Program was the forerunner of the National Women's Health Program.

At the time of Kay becoming Minister for Community Services in 1990, Caloola was a 125-year-old bluestone institution. Initially built to house the criminally insane, Caloola at that time was an institution for 451 intellectually disabled people. Kay was shocked and repelled by the appalling and Dickensian conditions she encountered on a tour of the facility soon after taking on the portfolio - in particular the Women's Locked Block - a bluestone dormitory which had a packed earth exercise yard attached.

She decided on the spot that something must be done and spent the next 14 months ensuring it was achieved. With the support of the Premier, Joan Kirner and her Cabinet, Kay and her team proved that it is possible to close down a large and established institution like Caloola on time, on budget and with positive outcomes for all stakeholders. The closure of Caloola Institution required only a one-off allocation of $18 million in addition to the $25 million annual operating budget. Kay's success influences policy on the care for intellectually disabled to this day. Not only that, but the Victorian Government was recognised worldwide for the manner in which it was conducted.

Following the success of Caloola, Kay was able to commence the transfer of intellectually disabled residents from Aradale and May Day Hills (Beechworth) and were subsequently closed.

As a minister in the Victorian Labor Government Kay's feminism and concern for the community informed and drove all of her many achievements. Kay continues to work as an unpaid activist and has remained true to her earliest convictions. Kay identifies a problem and immediately applies an astonishing determination to right it. She is a woman with an unswerving and unstinting capacity for action.